Ernest has a purpose. A purpose he discovered on his own.

We adopted Ernest from Peppertree Rescue when he was 9 years old. His previous owners had kept him in a crate all day and night. They let him outside just long enough to get him covered in ticks, which they never removed. The poor old guy wasn’t treated well.

Ernest, the day we rescued him.

But did he hold that against anyone? Absolutely not. When we got him, he was thrilled to be able to run around the house and yard. (I promised him he’d never go back in a crate.) But most of all he wanted to be patted. Constantly. Like he was making up for all the lack of love and human contact in his former life. He liked being around people so much, that his trainer said “He was born to be a therapy dog.” So he passed his test and became a certified therapy dog.

Proud to be a therapy dog. (Photo: Roy Gumpel)

Now that he’s 12 years old and has some health issues, he’s slowing down a bit. But he still wants to be a therapy dog. Whenever my family visits, Ernest ignores everything else and goes to their side and asks for pats. When we meet someone when out walking in the neighborhood, he wants to be near them. He especially seems to know when someone needs a little extra love.

When a friend visited while struggling with a challenging illness, he wouldn’t leave her side. When my 84 year old mom came to visit and had just been through a difficult time, he sat beside her on the couch as we watched television, and even slept in bed next to her. He usually slept on his own bed on the floor in our bedroom, but while she was here, he deserted our room for hers.

Ernest with Grandma. Always a therapy dog.

Yup, Ernest knows who needs him. When he goes up to someone with that determined gait and that soft look in his eyes, we say he’s “therapy dogging” someone. This is just one of the things I love about Ernest. His purpose is to make others feel better. And he does it so well.